By Nelson Oliveira New York Daily News
A giant cloud of Saharan dust is expected to reach the southeastern United States this week after traveling more than 5,000 miles from northern Africa and blanketing many Caribbean islands in recent days.
The massive plume could drift across Louisiana, Texas and other Gulf Coast states as early as Wednesday, bringing enhanced sunrises and potentially pausing storm formation for a few days.
Summer dust clouds are not uncommon, but this year’s event is getting more attention because it appears to be the largest in decades. A picture taken from the International Space Station shows the band of dust covering hundreds of miles over the Atlantic Ocean.
“We flew over this Saharan dust plume today in the west central Atlantic. Amazing how large an area it covers!” astronaut Doug Hurley tweeted earlier this week.
As the cloud began traveling across the Caribbean over the weekend, air quality in much of the region reached dangerous levels.
The Puerto Rican government urged its residents to stay indoors, especially people who have asthma, allergies or other respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
Ibis Montalvo Félix, of the island’s health department, said the dust cloud tends to reduce humidity, increase heat levels and bring chemicals that are harmful to some people.
“This is one of the most significant events in recent years and we must take it very seriously,” she said in a statement.
In Trinidad and Tobago, authorities warned citizens to close their doors and windows, wear a mask during outdoor activities and use an air purifier at home.
In the U.S., the event is unlikely to cause any major concerns. The National Weather Service in Houston said the cloud will bring stunning views when it moves through the area.
“Get those cameras ready cause the dust will make some fantastic sunsets/sunrises with #nofilter,” the agency tweeted on Sunday.